The sermon contained more of me, and us as a congregation, than I had ever preached before. Beginning with the tragic mountain story (last posting) I said: 'The only way to avoid the risks of height is to stay at ground level....and that's just what most of us do in the spiritual realm. When we face the mountains of faith, when we are called to rise to a vision and respond to a call which leads beyond what we are used to, when we are challenged to leave the familiar for the unfamiliar, the known for the unknown, the safe for the risk, when we face the mountains of faith we want to stay put.' I then shared what happened to me after the meeting - my feeling physically sick, sitting in the car after the meeting. My fear about the future and blunt desire to stay at ground level, to stay with thing as they have always been.
Abraham setting out from the familiar (Gen 12) exemplifies how faith leaves the familiar for the frightening unknown. I spent time reminding us of his journey - 'faith involves things you would never dream of doing normally.' And moved onto how Jesus dealt with people whom he called to be and do new things and how he often said:' Don't be afraid'.
Faith is frightening but also reassuring. The sermon's second part took Rom 4: 18-25 - once God had given his promise Abraham had faith that God would stick by that promise. 'He did not analyse it, suspect it, rationalize it, over-dramatize it; he refused either to deny it or even to doubt it, but drew strength from faith and gave glory to God. He was sure that God the Creator is powerful when men are weak and he promises the safest route (though not the easiest).
When God calls us to do things we would never dream of doing normally, and take risks we would never begin to calculate, and climb when it seems failure hems us in on every side then we begin to find out what a live faith is. We don't know what would have happened if Abraham hadn't responded with faith - No Israel, No Old Testament, No First Covenant? We don't know what will happen if we don't respond in faith, or do we?
As I review that sermon, though, I am left with a question about how personal a preacher should be.....